Last week I was in India for a brief business trip with my day job, and had a wonderful experience in the market that I’d visited in September of 2007, when I shot some great portrait shots that I shared with you in Episodes 105 and 106. This is the first of a two part series in which I’ll explain what happened this time, and share some thirteen or so portraits of the wonderful people I met at the market this time.
You might remember that back in Episode 105 and 106 I discussed a series of portrait shots that I made during a 30 minute work through the Madivala vegetable market in Bangalore, India, back in September 2007. I had been there on business, for basically a flying trip, and really the only photography I did was from the plane on the way out and back, and these thirty minutes in the market. I’d devised a strategy to get people used to me very quickly. Basically, like many people, I experience a little anxiety when walking up to people and asking if I can take their photograph. I had also decided a while ago that I would no longer just shoot people from the car while on these business trips, as it was at best too impersonal, and possibly, no, probably just downright insulting to have some outsider whizzing past in a car shooting out of the window like some sniper.
Anyway, my strategy last year was to walk through the market with my camera around my neck, but not take any photos at all on my first walk through. I simply smiled and said hello to many of the people I saw as I walked. Then when I got to the end of the market, I turned, and walked back through. Then, the people that had seen me walk through the market minutes earlier, with their curiosity somewhat aroused, started to call out to me, and ask where I came from and what I was doing there. With the camera around my neck from the start it was easy now to ask if it was OK to take their photo, and as I shot some people, a buzz started in nearby stalls, and as I moved along, many others actually started asking me to take their photos and it was also much easier for me to ask those that didn’t ask me. It was a wonderful experience, and I felt strongly that I wanted to do something in return for their warmth and kindness. I actually mentioned at the end of the two podcasts on this last year that I wanted to take back some prints for the people that had allowed me to shoot them.
Well, at about 1AM on Sunday the 13th of April, just six hours before I was due to leave for the airport to go back to India, when I finally finished recording Episode 132 of this Podcast and was almost packed, I selected 10 photos of the people at the market, and loaded my printer with 5×8” Epson paper, and started to output the prints. I have to admit, I’d been pretty busy with various things and though for a moment that I might give up on this. I was thinking that the people may not even be there, and I needed some sleep. But, if they were there, I would never have been able to forgive myself for my laziness, so I went ahead and made the prints.
Well, at around 9:30AM on the morning of the 15th, I drove through the market on my way to a business meeting. Then, I saw one of the people that I’d photographed at a fruit stall. Then as we went further along, I saw the fish stall where I’d photographed the family. At this point I could find anyone else, but I was so happy that it seemed that at least some of the people were still there. I didn’t stop at this point, as we had to be somewhere for a meeting. I did tell the other’s with me though that if possible I’d like to stop for 30 minutes on the way back later in the day, to give them their photos. I showed them the photos and they thought it was an excellent idea. So the stage was set.
Well, at around 3:30, we arrived back at the market. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive, as I didn’t know how they’d react, but we parked the car, and headed towards the stall where I’d recognized the first man. I approached the man from the fruit stall, and said hello, and asked if he remembered me. He didn’t seem to understand, but he did seem to possibly recognize me, and as I spoke, I handed him his photograph. He was laughing, and looking back at his wife, they seemed as though they recalled and were talking about my previous visit. There smiling faces were all that I wanted, and I’d seen them, so I was now happy. I asked if the people in the photos that I recalled taking near their stall were still around, and they were, in the back of the stall next to theirs. I started to hand out their photos too, and again was rewarded with laughter and smiles as everyone viewed and passed the photos around.
We walked further along, and it just kept getting better, I saw more people, and handed over the photos, and when we got to the fish stall, some of the people that I’d shot before were there, though some weren’t. There were many more people though too. As I handed the photos over, they started asking me to take their photos again, and the new people all joined in. Let’s look at the first shot, which is shot number 1740. We started with this big group photo, which they initiated. I had only taken my 85mm F1.2 lens, so I had to step back quite a way to get everyone in, but I guess this will have helped to get a nice perspective. I was not so happy that the wooden pillar holding up the stall was in the right side of the image, but I didn’t particularly want to start choreographing everyone either, so I went with the flow. I really like this shot as everyone is smiling, so it really relays the happiness and friendliness of the moment. Although it was a bright sunny day, I’d learned when I came here before that most of the time the people were under the shadow of their stall canopies, so I’d set my ISO to 200 from the start, and I selected an aperture of F4 for this shot, which required a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second for good exposure.
After this, they all started asking for individual or group shots. I have to admit, that although I’d been hoping to shoot a few more photos, hence my camera around my neck with the 85mm fitted, I was in handing-over-photo mode, and it all started to take off into a photo shoot, but who am I to stop the flow, right? It was great! I was enjoying the experience incredibly. In the next shot, image number 1741, we can see who I think is the owner of the stall, with a prize catch catfish. He’d been trying to get a shot alone, and kept elbowing the others out of the scene, but this young guy in the burgundy shirt came in behind, so I got the shot. I quite like this actually, with both of the gentlemen’s heads tilted at a similar angle. This was also shot at F4, but I lowered the shutter speed to 1/200th of a second as there were fewer highlights to protect from blowing out.
Next, was a somewhat frustrating result, as the two guys we can see in image number 1742, had posed with a couple of really mean looking smiles. In this shot, only the guy to the left of the frame has this look, but in the first few shots they’d both had that tough, pensive stare. This of course was a front, just a pose, and they’d actually cracked up laughing at some point, which I also got, but unfortunately the focus on the first few frames was a little off. Well, what had happened was I didn’t have them paralleled, and this meant that with the shallow depth of field from the F4 aperture, that one of them was outside of my depth-of-field. I thought this might be the case, and so got myself parallel to them from around this shot. The guy in the background detracts from the main subjects a little, but he was determined to be in the shot. As I moved to be more parallel to these guys, the guy in the background also shuftied along the stall a little to stay in frame. He did this in pretty much all the shots here, but again, I was not going to start and choreograph these guys.
In shot number 1743, we can see three wonderful smiles. Actually four if we count the stall owner in the background again, but these three young boys, again with their prize catfish all gave me a wonderful smile each. They’d actually gotten a little bit serious for a moment, so I dropped the camera and gave them a big smile myself, which is what they were reacting to here. Again, I have a vexing memory from this point, as they all started laughing at each other laughing, with the boy to the right pointing with his arm stretched out at the boy on the left, but as they did so, they all rocked backwards, and the focus ended up perfectly on the face of the catfish. I was back up to a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second here again, and the last shot for that matter, though still with an aperture of F4. As when I was here before, after each shot, I showed them the photos on the LCD, then shook each of their hands and thanked them. This time many of them started to ask for their photos, which is fine of course. It’s the least I can do, so I promised to take them back on my next trip.
As we walked further along, I spotted the gentlemen with the red and white checked head-dress that I’d shot such a wonderful photograph of on my previous visit. This is the one that is almost like something off of a National Geographic Magazine cover. He didn’t recognize me at first, which is hardly surprising, but I walked over and showed him the photograph, saying “Do you know this gentleman”? Well, I wish someone else had gotten a photo of this exchange, because his face was a picture. He literally lit up. He was so excited, and in turn of course, so was I. Again, we shook hands, and I thanked him again for his picture. Now three friends came by and they all looked at the photo, and we all laughed together. Then they requested another photo, so I had them all sit down and took a few shots. The result is image number 1746. I was actually regretting to an extent that I only had my 85mm with me. I was not expecting so many group shots, and I had to stand way back to fit all of them in. I wasn’t too worried at the time though. I was having such a great time, and I believe they were too, so the exchange was more important to me than the resulting photos, in this case at least.
I had to do a little bit of Photoshop work on this shot, as there was actually a fly right over the left side of the man with the blue shirt in the first of the two frames I shot. The first was the better shot though, as I’d cut off even more of the hands of these men in the second shot, so I took the left eye, cheek and ear of the man in the blue shirt from the second shot and grafted it over the first. Still shooting at F4, I had selected a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second. The guy on the left of the group as we view the shot had a white shirt on, which we can see has severely blown out under the direct sun, but I wasn’t too worried about this. We can see why it’s so blown out. That aside, it really was a great experience to meet the gentleman with the red and white checked head-dress again. I have stared at his photo so many times over this last 7 or 8 months, and to see him again in the flesh, especially as excited as he was, though you can’t see it in this shot, really was a treat.
So, let’s leave it there for today, and pick up the trail again in the next episode. I will try to get that out this week to make up for some missed episodes recently during a family visit. Remember that our current assignment is on Abstract and you have until Sunday the 18th of May to get your entry uploaded to the mbpgalleries assignment album, which brings me nicely on to the subject of our little hackerification last week. While I was in India, I became aware of some mbpgalleries.com Web site issues, that after a quick look, I feared were the work of a hacker. I tried to work on this while on the road, but really couldn’t make the time to look at it properly, and as I was there on business in my day job, not for photography, I actually didn’t have any of the files necessary to really fix anything anyway. Still, when I got back home on Friday evening, I soon confirmed that we had indeed been subject to the work of a certain species of pond life that prays on people having fun, for no profit. It really saddens me to think that there are people like this in the world, but I guess there is nothing we can do about it. I know the name of the Web site that this hacker was trying to redirect us to, and also trying to distribute their Trojan horse style virus from, but the Internet is currently designed so that people can hide behind privacy measures at their service providers, and it really isn’t easy to stop them. Anyway, if you had problems with the mbpgalleries web site last week, I apologise for not being able to fix the issues more quickly. I actually upgraded the album software on Saturday to close the security hole that had apparently let them in, so we should be OK now. Sorry for the inconvenience anyway.
So, let’s call it a day for today, and I’ll be back later with part two of my trip to the Madivala Market. For now though, you just have a great week, whatever you do. Bye bye.
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